Monday, September 7, 2009

Afternoon at Carlos Avery WMA

For our Labor Day birdwatching outing, we decided to head north of the Twin Cities, to Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area - a large (23,000-acre) natural area that I had never been to. A wildlife management area is an area of habitat managed primarily to support game for hunting, but certainly such habitats support many additional species as well. One of our first spots of the day was a large hawk at the top of the tree below.

Our first instinct was that it was an osprey - it looked huge, and had a white breast and dark wings, which would be consistent with an osprey. But when we looked through the scope it was clear that it was not.

The rusty blush to the neck and white underside from breast to tail were key points we noticed, and while we haven't definitively identified it, we think it may be an immature Swainson's hawk, though these are generally seen somewhat further west. We welcome comments from those more expert than we are. We had four field guides out while looking at the photos and still could not come up with a definitive ID, even though Dave has taken a hawk identification class. Frustrating!

A bit later, while wending our way around the ponds (called pools) of the area, we saw this kingfisher fly overhead. We stopped and walked for a bit and it kindly sat long enough that we could get a photo.
Here's a view of one of the lakes in the area. This was fairly typical of a lot of the area - lots of marshy wetland (currently fairly dry), some pools and lakes, and some open grasslands and woods as well.

Further along we got this great view of a great blue heron somewhat camouflaged in the reeds.

Here it was hunkered down with its neck retracted in a S shape. I haven't seen herons without their necks extended before.

Here it is, fully extended again. Herons are so primeval looking!

While we didn't see a lot of birds today, we did see lots of dragonflies. They seemed to be everywhere we went. There is a huge amount of habitat at Carlos Avery that we didn't see today. I expect we'll be back again another time.

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forestal said...

wow - looks like a great place to spend time. Great post


Deb said...

I used to live near Carlos Avery. One of the things I liked to do best was ride my bike to one of the pools in early spring when the ice was just opening up. There would be waterfowl of all sorts, loons, eagles, otters, and much more. It's a gem in an area that has otherwise gotten over developed in the last 20 years.

Penelope said...

Well, I read in today's birding column in the Star Tribune that Swainson's hawks most likely left the area weeks ago on their migration to South America. While we certainly weren't sure of our tentative hawk ID, since no photos we found of immature Swainson's hawks looked quite like our specimen, we are now more in the dark than ever. Expert birders, where are you?

dAwN said...

Howdee Penny,
I am back after over a week of no internet..
I am going to tweet your hawk out to twitter and see if I can get an ID for you.
Catcha later.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I'm far from an expert but I'm leaning toward Red-Tailed Hawk.

I hope to get up to Carlos Avery this fall. Isn't it a neat place? There are so many places I'd like to visit. Crex Meadows is another.

Penelope said...

We had several reasons we didn't think it was a red-tailed - but of course that would be the first thing one would think of.

Anonymous said...

Hi Penny,
I am 99% sure you have what
Lynne said, a Red-tailed Hawk.
Even though most Swainson's
Hawks have left the state by
now, some will still be seen.
However, your hawk just does
not have the right look to it.
Don't let all that white under-
side fool you, Red-tails are
highly variable and often are
very white beneath. Hope this
helps, and thanks to Lynne for
the "heads-up".
Hap in New Hope

Penelope said...

Hap - Thanks for the insight. I guess we ruled it out too quickly for reasons that turned out not to be valid, but that certainly explains why we couldn't match it up with any other species. Good to hear from you again!